Thursday, October 31

Pumpkin Day!

It's Pumpkin Day!  

Here's some of what we enjoyed today:

Candy Corn
Pumpkin Pies (we made mini ones this year!)
A Prettily Decorated Table
Shepherd's Pie
Pumpkin Carving with Papa
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin Books for Bedtime Reading

The Learning Basket for Pumpkin Day can be found HERE.

Wednesday, October 30

Yarn Along: The Honey Cowl...

I have knit a Honey Cowl in all three sizes that they indicate on the pattern, and have loved every single one.  The only problem is that they didn't seem to be bulky enough for me.  I decided that I wanted to knit one for myself, so I bought three skeins of Tosh Vintage in Tern.  I cast on 260 stitches and knit until the yarn nearly ran out.  My cowl is 29" in length and 11" in width (with the stockinette edges rolled down).  I have to say that it is my favorite knit so far.  I really like the color and all three skeins were perfectly hand dyed for one another.  It is just bulky enough for my frame without being overwhelming and I am excited to wear it!

I finished up The Dirty Life on Monday night and read through my October issue of Country Living UK.  Now to decide what to read and knit next!

Tuesday, October 29

Loose Ends...

Yesterday the boys lay on either side of me after lunch.  It was supposed to be quiet time, but I told them stories from when they were babies.  It is pretty hard to believe that we have a seven year old, a five year old, and a three year old.  They all seem so BIG.  Happily, they are still as loveable as they were when they were tiny!

I've finished up my Honey Cowl and the book I was reading this past week and am now at loose ends.  I'm not sure what to knit or read!  I kind of want to make another cowl (What?  Two in a row is not enough?) and I really want to read Joy in the Morning.  But it is a little boring.

Oh, I wanted to tell you that I am on Facebook now.  My name is Mamabird Emma.  It's not much different from this blog (in fact, I link to all my posts from here after I publish them), but I have been finding some links to share and it's been fun to connect with people there. 

How was your day?

Monday, October 28


Mark was still courting me. His love and commitment never wavered, even though mine seemed to go up and down like an EKG.  The gifts that he brought me that spring were humble and so beautiful.  The contrast between the harshness of our lives then and the tenderness of those small gestures was shocking.  A little bundle of wildflowers, laid on my pillow in the afternoon.  A small drawing of the hawk we'd watched flying low over the marshy field behind the house.  After the plants were in the ground I went to bed with a fever, and he brought me a plate of wild strawberries ringed by flowers and leaves, and sat on the edge of my bed and chattered and joked while I ate them, and would not take any for himself."

Kristin Kimball

Sunday, October 27

A Tiger Cave...

I really love when our children surprise us.  Since we homeschool, I feel like I know a lot about my kids and what they can do.  I know what they draw.  I know their writing assignments.  I know what they are reading and what they are doing in math.  It is good that I am so involved, but it makes it much sweeter when they surprise me with their ability and their creativity!

Little Man was wandering around outside today working on something that I couldn't quite see from the window.  I came out to see what he was up to and found this wonderful cave that he created for his tiger,  He added leaves, flowers, and vines from the yard and placed it all under a juniper tree by the porch.  I cannot tell you how much I like this thing!

Self-Assessment in the Christian Life...

The saints often remarked how people manage with great enthusiasm, creativity, and intelligence to get ahead in worldly affairs, but often fail to make a comparable effort when it comes to the spiritual life. Saint Seraphim of Sarov in his conversation with Nicholas Motovilov used the analogy of acquiring money to help his spiritual child understand how one should strive to acquire the Holy Spirit. With respect to a detailed examination of how one has spent one’s day in terms of actions pleasing or displeasing to God, “Saint Theophan the Recluse even suggests that it be done with ‘the mathematical accuracy of a business ledger’” as I mention in Ancient Christian Wisdom. But how are we to go over our day in a way that can help us to crystallize our spiritual goals, to identify our strengths and our weaknesses, as well as to use this knowledge ultimately to become better Christians, to confess more fully, to pray more earnestly, to receive Holy Communion more worthily, and to love less selfishly?

For the sake of performance assessment in many occupations, industrial psychologists suggest considering productivity, absenteeism, peer-ratings, and supervisor-ratings. Starting with the premise basic to Ancient Christian Wisdom, it occurs to me that some of these same approaches may be usefully applied in the most important job of all, the job of being a Christian.  In terms of productivity, we can look at our prayers. The fathers of the desert used prayer ropes to be sure that they said the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me” a certain number of times each day, sort of like a spiritual quota. Although one might dismiss such concerns as not particularly spiritual or deep, most monks will be able to tell you that they experience a palpable difference when they pray less, even when their prayer happens to be dry. We can also consider the quality of our product, which provides a window into the deeper, spiritual dimension. Is our prayer from the heart or are they just words? We can likewise consider

productivity in terms of almsgiving (that is particularly quantifiable), in terms of acts of kindness, in terms of forgiveness, in terms of filling each and every commandment in the Gospel of Christ. Looking at our productivity as Christians does not seem to be out of place in a sincere effort to assess where we are in our journey towards Christ.

Psychologists providing employers with assessment guidance also suggest considering absenteeism. In the context of the spiritual life, at a base level, we can ask about our attendance at Church and our presence there from the moment the bell rings. Psychologists consider specific categories of absenteeism such as justified versus unjustified, sickness versus non-sickness, voluntary versus involuntary, explained versus unexplained, and certified illness versus casual illness. Some of these same categories can be applied for absence from Church in terms of why we made the choice and our spiritual commitment underlying that choice. But even more important than absence from Church is being present before God in Church, being present not just in body, but also in mind, in spirit, and in heart. And given that Christianity was never meant to be a Sunday only affair, one can also consider absenteeism from willingly striving to be in God’s presence throughout the day.

A final useful tool is peer-ratings and supervisor-ratings. In Ancient Christian Wisdom, I mention that “Saint John Chrysostom notices that self-love blindfolds us with blinders that can only be removed by those who are hostile to us. ‘Under the influence of self-love we do not see our own failings, while those who are hostile to us often see them quite accurately.’ Although it may be too threatening to ask someone who is not kindly disposed towards us about our failing, we can still choose to ask a close Christian fellow-struggler who dares to be honest with us for some precious feedback about where we need to strive more earnestly. Finally, in confession, we can also ask for guidance about which weaknesses we should struggle to correct, which strengths we should build on, and what is the ideal model of the Christian we desire through the grace of God to be. There do seem to be spiritual analogues to productivity, absenteeism, peer-ratings, and supervisor-ratings. May we use them to move for-ward in the spiritual life as they are used to move forward in the secular world.

Friday, October 25

Autumn is Here...

Autumn is here.  It is chilly now and the wind picked up today scuttling leaves all around the yard.  We've been lighting a fire in the living room, I baked an apple pie yesterday to warm things up (inside and out!), and now the lights are on before dinner time.  This is my favorite season!

Thursday, October 24

Rearranging the Playroom...

Once we decided that we were going to bring the piano home with us (at about 8pm on Wednesday night), we knew that the playroom was going to need to be rearranged.  It was 11:30 when I decided that I was going to move furniture.  I know that sounds completely crazy (especially since Father John had done the reasonable thing and turned in for the night already!), but I knew that it would be hard to do with the little ones and I also really wanted things to look great when the piano arrived in the morning!  

We had already moved the futon to the little alcove and so I pushed and pulled those bookcases across the room so that we could create a little reading nook.  Then the toys that had occupied the the space where the futon and bookshelves had been were moved to their new spot near the children's table.  I was able to rearrange things, organize and tidy, and sweep the floor in about an hour and a half.  It was so exciting to see everyone's faces in the morning!  I still miss the cube bookshelves by the other window, but it is nice to have a little reading nook! 

Wednesday, October 23

The Sound of Music...

For awhile now, Father John and I have been discussing music lessons.  We both had piano instruction growing up and sing in church, and we hope that we can foster some musical ability in our little ones.  We decided that we wanted to invest in a piano sometime last year, but with all the goings-on at the church, we did nothing about it.  

Once the school year started up, I began thinking about piano lessons more.  We would talk about it and plan to look for pianos sometime soon.  It was all very vague.  On Friday of last week, I idly looked up desks (we're looking for one for Sugar Plum...  though as of tonight, we seem to have found a solution that we already had!) and pianos on Craig's List.  I showed Father John some of the ones that I found and then went off to take care of the children.  Excitedly, Father called me back to the office to show me a 100 year old single strung English piano that was gorgeous and unique.  We e-mailed the people selling and made an appointment to see it (with some parishioners that are professional pianists) on Tuesday night and by lunch time today, this beauty was in our playroom waiting to fill our house with music!  It needs a little work, but the couple that sold it to us gave it to us for a song (ha!)!

I remember going to buy a  piano with my mother and father when I was a little girl, and I really think that our little ones will remember our piano outing when they get older.  The couple who was selling the piano were so nice and accommodating to our family.  They had two little cats (Inky and JoJo) and allowed the children to play with them and feed them little cat treats.  Their home overlooked a harbor with boats docked and we were able to watch the sun set from their many windows while the piano was inspected and the couple told us about their family.  It was very sweet!

Sugar Plum seems to be the most eager about lessons and has been "playing" away for the whole day.  We'll be getting a piano book soon and then Father John will begin reacquainting himself with playing and then will start teaching the little ones.  I really think that it will be a great thing for him and for the children...  it is good for them to each get to spend some time with him learning something new!

Do you have any suggestions for piano books?  I saw that Teaching Little Fingers to Play has good reviews and I seem to remember using it when I was a little girl, but that was obviously a long time ago! 

Yarn Along: Where My Wellies Take Me...

We went to the library on Friday and were fortunate enough to be able to take a peek at a bunch of new books in circulation.  One of the ones that came home with us was Where My Wellies Take Me.  It is a gorgeous book that tells the story of a little girl's adventures on a walk through the English Countryside.  The illustrations are glorious and on each page there is a relevant poem or two personally chosen by the authors.  I love it!  I can only keep this book for a bit, but it would be a great one to use for a more detailed poetry study in the future!

My needles are clicking away on my Honey Cowl.  I am now on the final skein of yarn from our little jaunt to San Francisco.  I did find an area where my tension was off in the bottom third of what I have knitted so far.  I'm trying to decided if it is worth it to frog it back...  I really want the cowl to be just right.  We'll see what happens!

Tuesday, October 22

A Sermon on Saint Elisabeth the New Martyr...

For the past few months, my husband has been recording his sermons.  I really enjoy listening to them later (I go with the children to a preschool church school lesson at that time) and thought that you would too!  Here is the sermon from October 20th:

Monday, October 21

Autumn Wardrobe...

Wool Plaid Shawl

Boatneck Tees with 3/4 sleeves

Warm Topper for Blustery Days

Knee-length Knit Skirts with fold over tops

Bootcut Corduroy Trousers

Fancy Dress

Lightweight Raincoat

My Autumn and Winter Handbag

Brown Leather Boots

Wedding rings and earrings (the earrings are worn one pair at a time)

Watch and bracelets (the bracelets are worn one at a time)

These items are the workhorse staples of my Autumn wardrobe this year.  I really tend toward wearing the same favorites day after day, and these photographs reflect that.  I do have other things in my wardrobe to mix it up when I need to, but my friends will tell you that these clothes are probably worn every time they see me!  I really like the colors that are represented here (black, white, navy, charcoal, silver, brown, and camel).  Anytime I deviate from this palette, I don't feel comfortable.  I have been mixing black and brown/camel for a few seasons now, and I love it!  I used to be a very black shoes/black handbag sort of girl, but I have come to realize that camel works a little better than black for me because it looks good with either black or brown.  

Some other things that I wear on a regular basis:
Cardigans (black, navy blue, turquoise, and cheetah print)
Oblong scarves for covering my head in Church
Black Leggings
Black Tights (opaque and lacy)

Some things that I'd like to add over time:
Boatneck tee with 3/4 sleeves in white with black stripes
Corduroy skirt (in the same color as my cord trousers) 
Dark brown cardigan
Wool coat
Quilted jacket
Camel leather brogues
Camel leather boots
Shearling boots
A Chunky Charcoal Gray Cowl (working on that now!)

Annual Upkeep
I take my jewelry to a jeweler that I trust to be checked, repaired if necessary, and polished.
My boots and handbag go to a local cobbler to be polished and repaired if necessary.
I bring my wool scarf and coats to the dry cleaner to be repaired and cleaned.

I'd love to see what's in your autumn wardrobe!

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